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Big spender The man who spent CHF9,999 on a whisky

The last Macallan 1878 in the world, allegedy

(Sandro Bernasconi)

Do you glance at the price when ordering a glass of whisky in Switzerland? Zhang Wei does not. He recently made headlines when he spent CHF9,999 ($10,290) on a Macallan 1878 – although rumours are now circulating that it’s a fake. Authenticity aside, what type of person would spend so much on so little? 

“Drank some whisky and am at the top of a search engine – very surprised,” wrote Zhang on his Weibo accountexternal link last week after news got out of his eyebrow-raising purchase at the Waldhaus am See hotel near the Swiss resort of St Moritz. 

It turns out that Zhang, who writes under the name Tang Jia San Shao, is China’s highest-paid online author – and just can’t say no to a Macallan. 

Zhang Wei posted a photo on his Weibo account of him receiving a "Whisky Hall of Fame" plaque from Sandro Bernasconi, owner of the Waldhaus am See hotel


“I was in Switzerland and saw a 100-year-old whisky. I didn’t spend long weighing up whether to get it,” he continued. “In a nutshell, it tasted good. I was drinking not so much the whisky but a lot of history.” 

Zhang, born in 1981, specialises in martial arts fantasy writing known as wuxia and has been publishing online since 2004.

“My friends all know that I love to drink,” Zhang wrote on his Weibo account, pointing out he has that in common with several of his characters. 

For example Wine God (2013) is about a sommelier – “the one known as the liquor god Li Jie Dong” – who can “mix cocktails at a level beyond anyone else in the world”, as the Wuxia Worldexternal link website explains. However, Li Jie Dong dies aged 30 after drinking recently excavated wine from the Han Dynasty.

“When he awakes, he finds himself in the world of the Five Element Continents as the young beggar Ji Dong. In this place, there is a special class of people known as the Yin Yang Spiritual Masters who control the ten elements of the sexagenarian cycle.” 

What does this all mean? Who knows, but wuxia can certainly pay well. Zhang has an annual income of more than ten million yuan (CHF1.5 million), according to goodreads.comexternal link. In May, it was reportedexternal link that he enjoys royalties of CHF17.7 million, making him China’s highest-paid online author for the fourth time. 

True or false? 

On his Weibo account Zhang wrote that on his recent trip to Switzerland he was joined by his grandmother. “She’s 82 but the whisky’s 139 – as old as my grandmother’s grandmother.” 

Or is it? Rumours quickly appeared that the whisky was a forgery. The hotel has now submitted the 1878 Macallan – believed to be the last unopened bottle of that vintage in the world – for “extremely rigorous” testing. 

The testing process could take several months and the hotel has said Zhang would be refunded if the whisky proved to be a forgery. But CHF9,999? A drop in the whisky barrel for Zhang.

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